Campus Politics and Student Newspapers: Decision by College Paper's Opinion Editor to Run for Office Created Campus Feud

Article excerpt

BRUNO NAVARRO, THE opinion editor of the Queens College campus newspaper, the QC Quad, decided during the spring 1991 semester to run for Student Association president.

"I thought it was the best way to improve student life," said Navarro, now the editor in chief. "I wanted to create policy instead of just criticizing what other people were doing."

The campus editor rounded a political organization called YES and asked Dean Miller, then a music writer, to run with him as vice president.

Navarro and Miller broke journalistic tradition by holding onto their editorial positions while they campaigned unsuccessfully for the student government jobs.

That decision set the tone for a long, bitter dispute that almost put the campus paper out of business. It came to a head last May 19 when the Student Activities Corp. -- the funding arm of student campus fees -- rejected the paper's $8,000 budgetary printing request for the fall 1992 semester.

The Student Association officers Navarro ran against were the most influential members of the Student Activities Corp.

After the QC Quad budget was defeated, the Student Activities Corp. appropriated $10,000 for the start of another newspaper that would be connected to the Queens College journalism program.

However, the journalism faculty rejected the proposal because teachers had not been consulted.

"I was outraged about the whole matter," Jo Ann Lee, co-director of the Queens college journalism program, said in a recent interview. "It is wrong for someone to suggest your services in a volatile situation without them telling you about it. The Queens journalism program is clearly not interested in taking over the Quad."

Jeremy Burton, the Student Association president who defeated Navarro in the campus election, managed the political raid on the QC Quad funding.

"We felt that they were wasting a lot of space," said Burton, who graduated and now works in New York Mayor David Dinkins' Community Relations Office.

"Students were complaining. They didn't write anything about campus clubs and activities. They made so many grammatical errors, it was embarrassing, and they were not impartial."

The QC Quad editors reacted to the defunding vote by mounting a media campaign to force the Student Activities Corp. to change its vote.

"We called a lot of newspapers in the city and faxed them information about what happened to us," Navarro said. "We told them that we were being censored.

"The SAC had changed the locks on the office. When we finally got in, we found out that they had reprogrammed the computers so we couldn't use them."

The 20-year-old editor's complaints won over a number of news organizations.

"The New York Post ran a piece," Navarro recalled. "Then there was a story in New York Newsday and we went on Fox Television's New York Live and some radio stations."

Jeremy Burton claims, however, that the QC Quad had no right to raise First Amendment complaints because the student editors have not behaved as responsible journalists.

"There is no purity there," he said. "Bruno Navarro and Dean Miller ran against my ticket for student government when they were members of the editorial board.

"Last year, Rob Jennings, one of their staff writers, ran for Student Association president. They have no right to talk about censorship. At Queens College, the journalists are politicians, the politicians are journalists, and the politicians fund the journalists."

Burton was referring to the QC Quad's decision to allow Jennings, who was president of the Political Science Club, to remain on the campus paper staff while he ran an unannounced campaign for Student Association president.

The QC Quad frequently published stories involving emotional political exchanges with Burton. Many of those articles dealt with Jennings' support of (Wolper, an associate professor of journalism at Rutgers University in Newark, N. …